Every year new words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Just this March in the latest update, over 550 new words, senses and sub-entries were added. This included “man-hug”, defined as a “friendly embrace between two men, often accompanied by a handshake, a clap on the back”. I wonder when this will be possible again.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, many new words and phrases have entered our vocabulary. They already existed in the scientific lexicon, but were happily unknown to the rest of us. One of those is ‘contact tracing’.

I personally have never had any reason to utter those words together before, although some people may, as this practice is performed, apparently commonly, for tuberculosis and measles.

I looked it up. ‘Contact tracing’ is the process of “identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person (‘contacts’) and the subsequent collection of further information about these contacts”.

By tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection, treating the infected and tracing their contacts in turn, it aims to reduce the level of infection in the population.

Although the disease element of this may be novel to us, we, as Irish people, are probably one of the most proficient contact tracers on the planet. Does this sound familiar?

“John Murphy bought a new tractor.”

“Which John Murphy?”

“Ah, you know John, his wife Mary works in the co-op; they are up there at the bad bends beside the Ryan’s. Sure isn’t one of the sons going out with a friend of yours?”

“Roisin McCarthy is going out with Paddy Ryan? Are you talking about his friend Jim Murphy? Is it his father that has the new tractor?”


“Ah I have him now, I know him, sure he coaches the under-six boys’ team in the village.”

A line of questioning will be asked of people if they get infected and contact tracing is necessary. Each contact and link will need to be checked to see who they have met and interacted with.

If you do leave your house for whatever reason and meet someone, or if someone comes onto your farm, make a note of it. Just like any farm biosecurity, it’s a visitor log and it could be vital information in the coming weeks.

Cocooning is another new word. It is the situation where people avoid all direct contact with other people to protect themselves. In Irish Country Living, we are always rallying against social isolation and this seems to be going against the grain, but, when necessary, it must be done. Enda Murphy, nurse and psychotherapist, outlines some techniques to help people cope if they are cocooning.

Many people who have never shopped online before may be signing up to do this now for food or other supplies. A necessary action in these unprecedented times. Unfortunately there are people in the online world who will take advantage of this situation. Janine Kennedy gives some tips on avoiding phishing and cyber-attacks.

Phishing is another of these new words. It is “the fraudulent attempt by someone to obtain information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication”. It is important to be wary of such scams.

It is positive to see many medical professionals returning from abroad, responding to the HSE recruitment drive. Odile Evans spoke with two farmers who have signed up. They explain why they have done so. We owe them a debt of thanks.

Read more

COVID-19: protecting our frontline medical staff

We need to be the calm second chicken

Social cocooning - the new challenge facing rural Ireland